The celebrations were long, enthusiastic, and well-deserved after Friday’s Supreme Court ruling making marriage equality mandatory. This was the defining legal battle for queer rights in the US, and it’s done!
Of course, even though it was the battle, it’s not the only battle. This doesn’t affect hate crimes legislation or employment discrimination, for instance… It’s still legal to fire someone for their sexuality or gender identity in many states. Gender identity itself is only somewhat related to same-sex marriage. Perhaps most importantly, this ruling doesn’t automatically affect public perceptions. That’s where pop culture comes in, good or bad — both reflecting and influencing the larger culture around it.
So, what changes might we see in pop culture and fiction? It’s an interesting situation, since we had marriage equality in some states but not in others. Because of that, changes will be minor, part of an overall transition rather than a sudden transformation. I see that as a good thing, because gradual changes are more lasting. Here are some possibilities:
- Behind the scenes, but most important: Creatives’ morale. Actors and writers and designers will be able to get married when they couldn’t before!
- In the same vein, I imagine some interesting life stories will make mention of last Friday.
- We will now have historical fiction about the time before marriage equality, and the struggle to achieve it.
- Buuut, maybe this will clear the way for fewer “issues” stories? More characters with lives beyond queerness?
- And more queer characters in addition to gay and lesbian ones?
- As a thematic motif, we’ll see more juxtaposition of legality with secrecy. Even though equal marriage is now legal, it won’t always be safe.
- Of course, even if it’s not safe everywhere, we’ve still removed the most obvious plot obstacle in modern same-sex romance novels. The solution is simple: set it pre-equality or come up with a more interesting problem!
- Will there be enough same-sex couples suddenly getting married to cause demographic effects? If so, these changes will be subtle and possibly go unremarked. We’ve only recently learned how drastically women outnumbered men in 1700s England, for instance, but that sheds a lot of light on upper-class “marriage market” novels into the 1800s.
Naturally, while writing this post I came up with several interesting story ideas set in and around last Friday, but that’s not really the effect I’m looking for!
What do you think… Will we see dramatic changes in pop culture, or subtle ones?